Series: What’s in your toolkit? 4 – Suzy Reading: Part 1

I first connected with Suzy on Instagram last year, when I sensed a kindred spirit in her posts, an understanding of the relentless pressure of modern motherhood and life, and a tendency of all of us to slip down our own lists of priorities while we juggle the day to day. Suzy’s instagram feed is always a shining inspiration to look for nuggets of positivity even in those inevitable days where you struggle to find the light in the shadows. Suzy had so much amazing stuff to say that I’ll be adding a second part to her blog later in the series.

  1. Tell me about yourself! Tell me more about your day job, how long you’ve been doing it, how you came to be in the field you’re in.

I’m a mummy of two, a psychologist specialising in wellbeing and facilitating sustainable healthy lifestyle change, a yoga teacher, and writer. I’ve always been passionate about health and helping my clients nurture themselves head, heart and body, but it was my life experience of motherhood colliding with my father’s terminal illness seven years ago that brought the disparate threads of my training (psychology, yoga and fitness) into one coherent offering – empowering people with the tools of self-care.

After witnessing my father’s breathing failure, a week of ‘last goodbyes’, the act of giving birth floored me and I began life as a mother at energetic rock bottom. I don’t know if it was PND, grief or just plain exhaustion and I don’t think it really matters. At the end of the day I’m human and I really struggled in the face of some traumatic times. I worked with an amazing PND counsellor who introduced me to the concept of self-care and it led me to my calling, the work I’m doing now – the silver lining to my suffering.

I love that my career is still evolving with my life experiences. As a result I work with birth trauma, PND, helping people navigate the transition to parenthood, grief, loss, stress and coping with change. I also relish working with people who want to use self-care as a means of becoming the person they aspire to be.

Most of my work is one on one, but in the last few years I’ve branched out to offering workshops and corporate speaking on mental health and wellbeing. I’ve made my home in the gym environment, yoga studios, ‘walk & talk’ sessions on Manly beach and now in the woods of Hertfordshire, consulting rooms, auditoriums, schools and the corporate arena. Right now there is a real interest in promoting mental health and I love that I can bring my whole toolkit to the table – mind and body, because there really isn’t any separation between the two.

  1. Why/when did you become a yoga teacher alongside being a psychologist?

I began my professional life working as a personal trainer in London. An eight week holiday to visit family in the UK from Sydney accidentally turned into a longer stint and I fell back into the work I was doing while I was at university. I first discovered yoga while I was training as a figure skater and working in the gym environment, teaching every kind of exercise class under the sun, I was drawn to teaching yoga. I took my teacher training qualifications and soon found that yoga was a wonderful bridge between the mind and body and I loved that this allowed me to work with my client’s emotional, energetic and mental health without leaving the gym… therapy by stealth!

I prescribe some kind of yoga for all my clients because of its therapeutic power and its ability to help us breathe better. Honestly, breathe better and you’ll feel better and it can be as simple as one pose a day.

3. Tell me more about being a Neom ambassador. What are your top Neom products for wellness and self-care?

I adore working with Neom and love that they’re genuinely passionate about empowering people with little steps that make a big difference.

Neom products have a huge impact on my wellbeing and I incorporate them into rituals of nourishment dotted through my day. I use them as an affirmation of self-worth and like to pair different scents with different mantras, channeling a particular energetic effect. My favourites are the room sprays, candles, body scrub, shower oil, hand creams and pillow spray. You can use their scent discovery kit to find your tonic – for me it’s energy boosting and promoting sleep. Self-care in an instant!

  1. You are a shining champion for self-care and the importance of prioritising your own mental health. Recently there has been a lot more light shone on perinatal mental health, getting people really involved sharing their stories and chatting about these important issues over social media. Do you find that people are more aware of their mental health nowadays and keen to nurture it?

I learnt the hard way what happens when we stop nourishing ourselves and that experience of energetic bankruptcy taught me some big lessons. If I don’t care for myself, I’m pretty rubbish at nurturing those in my care. I want everyone to have access to those same tools because life is hard! No one is immune! Parenting is challenging. We all lose people we love. Work demands can push us to our limits. There’s no avoiding being tested by life, so the solution is to lovingly tend to our energy bank balance so we are best placed to cope.

  1. What are your personal mental health tools in your own toolkit?

I’ve developed a framework of self-care which I call the Vitality Wheel – it is based on research from positive psychology, health psychology, mindfulness, CBT, acceptance and commitment therapy, the yoga tradition and my experience as a personal trainer. I categorise self-care into eight different ways we can nourish ourselves – eight spokes of the wheel if you like. These are:

  1. Sleep, Rest, Relaxation and Breathing

  2. Movement and Nutrition

  3. Stress Management and Coping Skills

  4. Your Physical Environment

  5. Social Connections

  6. Mood Boosters

  7. Goals and Accomplishments

  8. Values and Purpose

These categories help me to think about self-care more holistically, so that I am nurturing myself mentally, emotionally, energetically as well as physically. When I need a boost I turn to the Vitality Wheel and consider which strategies are most accessible and resonant in that moment.

What works for me and most people, is aiming for micro moments of nourishment and these are my go to’s:

  1. the skills of savouring, gratitude, kindness and compassion

  2. immersing myself in Nature or anything I find awe-inspiring

  3. I love a mantra for anchoring my mind and cultivating an intention

  4. focusing on the sensations of my breathing and using mudras (hand gestures) to work with my breath

  5. prioritising soothing activities and watching my levels of stimulation like a hawk. My nervous system needs TLC – so a careful visual diet, one coffee savoured per day, and the occasional few glasses of wine.

  6. intrinsically joyful movement is vital for my mood – after years of working in a gym I prefer walking and jogging in Nature’s beauty, rolling out my yoga mat at home or dancing up a storm to Ed Sheeran with the kiddliwinks. There’s always a way to squeeze movement in there.

  1. How do you balance kids and work? 

Sometimes things need to be car parked – it’s just not possible to do everything all at once. I took about a year out with Charlotte because we had so much going on with my father’s illness. With Ted I was back coaching and teaching after eight weeks but with a greatly reduced schedule – it was very limited because he wouldn’t take a bottle. It’s about getting creative too and doing things differently. I made the most out of every second of Teddy’s nap time and wrote my book while he slept. That was my way of making progress on the career front while still being available for him.

I sometimes wish I had an employed role to go back to. Being self-employed and building your own business is like a baby in itself so I have struggled energetically trying to keep all the balls in the air. The flipside to the challenges of being my own boss is that my career is adaptable – I offered Skype coaching after the kids were in bed rather than face to face sessions, or taught workshops on the weekend when my hubby could look after the kids. It is such a juggling act and compromise is essential. Sometimes I still feel like I’m not doing anything particularly well, but you’ve got to be realistic with the resources you’ve got and make your own call on what is most important to you and your family – this varies hugely so give yourself permission to do what is right for you and your family and own it.

Suzy is a Chartered Psychologist, Yoga Teacher, Health Coach and mother of two. She specialises in stress management, wellbeing and teaching tools of self-care. Want to boost your vitality, reclaim a state of calm or achieve better balance in life? Get in touch with Suzy. She is available for wellbeing coaching via Skype wherever you are in the world.

Drop her a line today: suzy@suzyreading.co.uk

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